Plastic bag challenge saves 5.3 bags from landfill

The regional race to eliminate plastic bags has crossed the finish line. The plastic bag challenge, which was undertaken in mountain towns across the West, came to a close this month with Durango doing more than its fair share to keep 5.3 million bags off the streets and out of landfills.

The voluntary Colorado Association of Ski Towns initiative worked to reduce consumption of single-use, disposable shopping bags. Thirty-one towns, including Durango, started the challenge March 1. Community organizers in competing towns worked with their municipal governments, local businesses and grocery stores to prepare for the challenge.  The “winner” was determined on a per capita basis over the six-month period.

The town of Basalt took tops honors, but organizers stressed that the Colorado Association of Ski Towns Reusable Bag Challenge was more about cumulative results than individual rankings. “It’s been a great success,” said David Allen, the program’s creator. “The results are better then I projected, and the project has received some impressive attention. Media outlets have covered the CAST Challenge as far away as Italy.”

CAST President Joyce Burford concurred, noting that the Reusable Bag Challenge was a success for all of the participants. “The support and exposure we’ve gotten in our community is really impressive,”she said. “I hope this effort gains enough momentum to the point where more towns in Colorado and even nationwide start their own initiatives.”

Basalt, a town with a population of 3,165, kept 153,186 plastic bags out of circulation in the last six months making it the challenge’s per capita leader. As a result, a $10,000 solar array, donated by Alpine Bank and PCL Construction, will be installed on one of Basalt’s public schools.

Durango put down a late summer surge in reusable bags to finish the challenge in fourth place. According to the results, Durango’s 16,007 citizens kept 421,372 plastic bags out of the local landfill. A combined effort by Granby, Winter Park, Fraser and Summit County took second place. And Breckenridge’s 10,083 residents eliminated the use of 411,680 plastic bags for third place. 

Environmental concern about litter and degradation of resources was the primary impetus behind the challenge. In the U.S alone, annual production of disposable grocery bags emits nearly 4 million tons of carbon dioxide, and an estimated 4 billion plastic bags are thrown out every year. Tied end-to-end, those bags could circle the Earth 63 times.

Regional ski areas expanding terrain

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort isn’t the only ski area mining for black diamonds this season. Resorts throughout the region are expanding their expert terrain in an effort to improve the skiing experience.

According to Colorado Ski Country USA, the 2009-10 ski season could be a pivotal one, and resorts are treating it as an opportunity to keep skiers coming to Colorado. Honing in on the guest experience is a strategy being followed both near and far.

Answering the call for more challenging terrain, Purgatory is expanding its expert terrain by more than 30 percent this season. The resort is opening a variety of new, steep, tree-skiing off of chair 8. The expansion greatly bumps up Purgatory’s black diamond offerings and increases skiable acreage by more than 10 percent.  

“I think locals and visitors alike will enjoy the terrain a bunch,” said DMR Vice President of Sales and Marketing Sven Brunso. “It should feel like backcountry with a ride back up.”

Telluride is also expanding terrain this season to offer more challenging, expert skiing. This year, the nearby ski area will open Gold Hill Chutes 2-5. This long-anticipated expansion comes on the heels of Gold Hill Chutes 6-10 opening in 2007-08, and Chute 1 opening in 2008-09. Chutes 2-5 offer wide-open, above treeline couloirs and chutes and drop 1,600 vertical feet. The resort also acquired two WWII-era howitzers last season to facilitate control of this new terrain.

Nearby Silverton Mountain will continue to offer an experts-only skiing experience in 2009-10, and this season the ski area will expand its heli-skiing offerings. Silverton Mountain’s recent acquisition of an Astar B3 helicopter will allow the area to provide guests with access to large reaches of its terrain as well as better avalanche control.

Wolf Creek will enhance the skier experience with a new amenity this year. The 70-year-old, family-run ski area will open the $1.5 million Raven’s Nest day lodge this season. Located mid-mountain on top of the Raven chairlift, the Raven’s Nest will offer a food and beverage service as well as a warming area for Wolf Creek skiers and riders.

‘Beast in the Garden’ visits Durango  

The Beast in the Garden pays Durango a visit this week. David Baron, the book’s author, will address a several local events in conjunction with Fort Lewis College’s Common Reading Experience.

Baron has worked as a science correspondent for National Public Radio for more than a decade, and he currently serves as the health and science editor for the PRI/BBC program “The World,” which is broadcast daily all over the globe.

Over the years, much of Baron’s work has dealt with the often complex relationships between man and wildlife, and in 2000 he wrote his first book, The Beast in the Garden. The book explores the relationship between humans and mountain lions, and won the 2003 Colorado Book Award.

Fort Lewis College selected The Beast in the Garden for its Common Reading Experience this year, and Baron will be in town this week for two local events.

This Thur., Sept. 24, Baron will moderate the panel discussion, “Living With the Beast,” at 7 p.m. at the Community Concert Hall. Other panelists for the free event include Marc Bekoff , Patricia Dorsey, Lee Ann Harbison and Steve Pavlik

On Fri., Sept. 25, the Friends of the Reed Library at Fort Lewis College invite members to an 8:30 a.m. breakfast with Baron. The author will discuss his research and the writing process, and there will be time for questions from the audience. The breakfast is the first of several member events the newly-revived Friends group is planning this year. For more information, call 247-7250.  

Manhattan Film Fest returns to Abbey

A shared curtain goes up in Durango and across the globe this Thursday. The Manhattan Short Film Festival returns to the Abbey Theatre on Sept. 24 for two showings, 6 & 9:30 p.m. Local filmgoers will unite with audiences in 172 additional cities across five continents to view and judge the filmmakers.

This year the festival culled 10 short films from 28 entries from 36 countries for the “Cinematic Olympiad.” Audience members will be handed a voting card upon entry and asked to vote for the one film they feel should win. Votes are tallied at each cinema and forwarded to the festival’s headquarters in New York City where the winner will be announced Sept. 29.

“While the goal of any festival is to discover and promote future talent, the ultimate aim of this festival is to bring communities together via 10 stories from around the world,” said Nicholas Mason, founding director. “There is no better insight to what is happening in the world or how the world is feeling than through the eyes, ears and lenses of these short filmmakers.”

More information on the festival is available at:

– Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows